ALIVE AND KICKING by Michael Levin


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 Returning to the legal background of his debut (The Socratic Method, 1987), Levin focuses his comic eye here on the world of contested wills and acrimonious family disputes as a filthy-rich yet charmingly eccentric band of money-grubbers maneuvers to divide the latest spoils, while their lawyers scheme to siphon away as much of it as they can. Caught in the middle of this contentious mess is the capable and lovely Amelia Vanderbilt, a young trust officer newly assigned to the notorious Gaines family account, who vows not to let them eat her alive as they did her predecessors. When ex-vaudevillian Harry Gaines leaves behind the demand that his relations ``get along,'' or else lose his $60 million estate to the feds, Amelia and her fiancÇ Howard, an accountant at the bank, are placed on the Trust Committee to aid in reaching an agreement. Plans from various family members to use Harry's three Broadway theaters as they were intended, or replace them altogether with high-rise office buildings, create a mad scramble to assemble a majority of votes on the Committee, but rival law firms have more to gain by keeping their clients from finding any common ground. Amelia finds herself fascinated by the Gaineses' history of litigation, which spans more than 70 years, and she is fascinated as well by footloose, handsome Dwight David Gaines, who blows into New York from Antibes long enough to cast a shadow on her engagement. As she digs into the Gaineses' history, however, a skeleton from her own closet emerges, adding a new wrinkle that threatens her position at the bank and leaves her open to blackmail when the most unscrupulous Gaines, a Manhattan real-estate developer who prays regularly to The Donald, gets wind of it. Entertaining and mildly satirical, with layers of intrigue deftly juxtaposed, though the saccharine sweetness leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-73190-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993